Less than a month remains until the start of the free agency. This might turn out to be the last days of DeSean Jackson as an Eagle—one of the team’s high-profile players.
The Philadelphia Eagles will most likely franchise tag Jackson. The tag will cost them about $12.36 million—a lot more than a signing him to a new contract. However, that does not make Jackson an Eagles’ player in 2012: He can get traded or he might not sign the tag and hold out.
That said, the “Jackson-less Eagles” scenario is not science fiction. In that case, Jeremy Maclin will get in the limelight as the No.1 wide receiver.
Of course, the Eagles will try to replace Jackson with a player of equal worth and playmaking ability. However, such players are scarce and the 2012 NFL draft class offers no AJ Green or Julio Jones.
So, a new question is born for Philly: Can Maclin take on the burden and emerge as the team’s primary offensive weapon?
Apparently, Maclin had that role in the 2011 season.
With Jackson holding out for the biggest part of the training camp, waiting for a big paycheck, the team realized that Maclin was a better long-term investment. In 2011, Maclin went for 859 yards and five touchdowns, which is lower than his 2010 stats. Jackson had only four receiving touchdowns, but almost reached the 1,000-yard mark.
That leads me to one conclusion, consisting of two parts.
First, the overall offensive production of the Eagles was disappointing—I know this is no secret. Second, Maclin is more dangerous when the player that lines up in the opposite side is being efficient and consistent.
Undoubtedly, when a wideout is a backfield burner, the opponent’s defense is keeping an eye on him and tries to limit his output. When this player happens to be DeSean Jackson, you can see the safeties being placed two to five yards further from their usual position.
That creates a big advantage for the Eagles, because the second wideout the tight end and, if on field, the slot receiver, have more space to move and get open.
Maclin is a player with potential; however, he needs a dynamic wide receiver playing opposite him. If Jackson leaves Philly, there is serious doubt that his successor will be able to engage the opponent’s defense the way he did.
Philadelphia has come to crossroads that can define its 2012 destiny, even now—in an early offseason stage.